Using Salt for More Gains

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Creatine. BCAAs. Pre-workout. Test-boosters.

These are just some of the supplements in the fitness arena that aim to give you that edge during your workouts that will help you perform better in the gym to increase your GAINS.

A lot of those supplements have credence to giving you an extra “boost” to how you perform in the gym. However, there is one physical supplement, if you can call it that, which will give you a bigger performance boost than all of those combined.

What is it?

SALT.

Yes. You heard me right. I said SALT.

But isn’t salt bad for you?

Yeah maybe if you have hypertension, bad kidneys, or consume 10 teaspoons of salt at once. Then yeah. In that case, it might kill you…literally.

BUT, using SALT as a performance enhancing supplement will give you boosts to your performance in the gym that you may have yet to realize.

Why?

Because our body needs and demands it to perform at its best.

Salt’s Impact on Physical Performance

As I’m sure many of you know when you sweat you lose more than just water. You lose electrolytes, namely SODIUM (a.k.a. SALT). When this happens with vigorous training, like lifting, HIIT, or endurance training, your body loses lots of salt. Lose enough, and you start to feel weak, fatigued, and perhaps get dizzy and begin cramping up.  Not good. What can fix that problem? Making sure you supplement with an appropriate amount of SALT before and during your workout.

Taking a simple sport salt tablet, which will often include POTASSIUM and MAGNESIUM in addition to SALT, will make sure you have proper amounts of ELECTROLYTES for your body to PERFORM at its best. Also, sprinkling a dash (no-pun intended for the DASH diet) of some natural sea salt in your water during your workout will make sure that your performance elevates and lasts.

Other benefits include:

  • Increases blood volume for better oxygen use and enhanced pumps
  • Allows muscles to hold more water for increased strength potential
  • Influences nutrient absorption and digestion
  • Helps maintain cell membrane integrity for better muscle contraction and cardiac function

(Source)

If you need more proof, listen to the prestigious and powerful Stan Efferding below.

Did you watch the whole video? What did you think? Are you convinced?

Maybe and maybe not. If not I get it. So, lets dig deeper.

Why Salt Gets a Bad Name

Almost every nutritional authority, from the World Health Organization to Harvard Medicine, says SALT is much more bad than good. Basically, you should limit SALT as much as possible because it’s just about in everything you eat and leads to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and hypertension (high blood pressure), among other health maladies. On the surface this seems clear-cut, and ever since the experiments of Lewis Dahl in the early 1970’s it was made a fore-gone conclusion that SALT IS BAD…or IS IT?

Not so fast. Digging deeper, Scientific American points out that Dahl’s rats, which were the subjects of his salt experiments, were given an equivalent of 500 grams of sodium a day. Really? The average American consumes no more than 8 grams of salt per day. How can you compare those numbers and say salt is what is causing our health problems? That’s like consuming 50 liters of water in a day and saying it’s bad for you. Ridiculous in my book.

Furthermore, other studies, like the 1988 INTERSALT study claimed it supported Dahl’s results. BUT, upon further inspection, we discover that outliers were used in their methods of data examination and that resulted in confirming Dahl’s results.

Salt is being demonized for something it, in the BIG PICTURE of things, is probably not really doing that much harm to, or, at the very least, is inconclusive on whether it has a significant and positive impact on contributing to CVD, obesity, Type II diabetes, and so forth.

Going deeper, if we look at salty foods, where do we find them?

In PROCESSED FOODS.

What are processed foods?

They are any form or derivative of McDonald’s hamburgers, Krispy Kreme donuts, Doritos chips, Ritz crackers, Hershey chocolate, and any prepared meal, including Lean Cuisine. These foods are designed to taste good, and are centered around simple carbs and sugar, often paired with high fat (including trans fats) with salt added to complete the flavor.

Here’s another fact though. Even though these foods may have salt, why has our salt intake for the past 50 years in America stayed relatively the same?

Better yet, why don’t we look at the Japanese who are notorious for their salty foods. The graph below sums up their daily consumption over the past 40 years or so. Relatively consistent, yet they are often praised for how good their cardiovascular health is. Based on these pieces of evidence, it appears normal salt consumption, between 3 to 7 grams a day — which is higher than the RDA of 1.5 to 2.5 grams — does not play a significant factor in determining whether you develop obesity, Type II diabetes, and CVD, or at least inconclusive.

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Furthermore, obesity, Typee II diabetes, and hypertension, all have gone up during that time. If salt was a significant contributor to those diseases you would think that salt intake would increase too? In fact, Italian researchers in the late 2000’s looked at people with heart failure and determined their insufficient salt intake was a contributor to their premature death, as states in the the New York Times. 

What has gone up instead? Our consumption of processed foods filled with simple carbs, sugars, and poor sources of fat. Then why is salt getting such a bad name if this is the case?

I don’t have an exact answer for you, but if you read more into salt from Dr. DiNicolantonio, author of The Salt Fix, it’ll tell you more into maybe why that is. You’ll also come to understand in his book how slightly increasing your salt can have various benefits, including reducing your chance of developing insulin resistance, obesity, and enhance your sleep, energy, and fitness performance.

Huh…isn’t that interesting.

What to do about SALT?

Eat more salt! That’s what you should.

Now, before you come running at me with fire and pitch forks, let me caveat that by saying adding more salt is based upon your current intake. If you are getting less than 2 to 3 grams of sodium a day that is probably not in your best interest if you want to make more gains in the gym, on top of just giving your body the amounts it needs to live optimally.

Chris Kresser, an M.S. who specializes in ancestral health, Paleo nutrition, and functional and integrative medicine, suggests as long as you are within 3 to 7 grams of sodium a day (1.5 to 3 teaspoons) you should be good. The more active you are the more salt you will need on that spectrum, and the less active you are the less you need. Simple.

Experiment with different levels of salt intake, especially around your workout, and notice how well you perform, whether better, worse, or the same.

That said, it is important to consume the best salt available.

Going for the cheapest salt may not be your best option. For instance, typical table salt like Morton’s often include extra stuff like anti-caking agents, which may include “cyanide” or another version that is apparently used for road salt called “E554 sodium aluminosilicate.” That being true, it may be in your best interest to look for natural sea salt like pink Himalayan sea salt. This salt is a lot more purer in form without, or minimal, contamination, as well as having an abundance of trace minerals, like boron, zinc, magnesium, sulfur, and iron.

HimalaniaHimalayan Fine Pink Salt

(To learn more about the contaminants of salt click HERE).

This adequate salt intake will give you everything your body needs and the chance to make better gains in the gym. What we are all looking for.

From personal experience, especially while on the KETOGENIC DIET, I can tell you first hand that this is 100% true. Anecdotal? Perhaps, but given the facts and the evidence, it seems in correlation with what is out there that salt is a performance enhancing supplement and needed more than we are told it is.

But, let me know what you think. Do you agree with the evidence presented? Or, do you think I’m a shill for “Big Food” because I am saying you should probably eat more salt? I hope not, but I value your opinion, so comment below.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

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3 Simple Steps to do Keto Right Outside and In the GYM

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I’m 10 and half weeks in the KETOGENIC DIET and I have to say I’m quite happy about it.

Going in I was nervous and hesitant to make that commitment because I was worried my gym performance would suffer and all “my gains” would go away.

For a time they did, and I was frustrated (Click the following links to read about my updates: 3 Days In and 30 Days in KETO).

However, pushing through that trough paid off. My body soon adapted by week 4 and I was feeling stronger than ever. I kept my programming up (I’m using Jonnie Candito’s 6 week strength program), and kept making all kinds of gains. And, just last week, I achieved one of my STRENGTH GOALS: squatting 405lbs raw. I did it, and that was coming off 2 and half days of being sick. All while on the KETO DIET and INTERMITTENT FASTING.

Why have I been successful so far and still feel strong today?

It’s because I’m refusing to use a KETO DIET as an excuse that I can’t train in powerlifting, and for strength overall, like I want to. I heard many say a KETO DIET is basically suicide for strength gains, and if you want to become weaker than go for it. The outside the gym benefits, such as increased and more consistent energy throughout the day, were not that debated, but for the gym, oh yeah.

So, starting this experiment with myself, I wanted to do it right. I did my fair share of research and listened to authorities on the diet, like Dominic D’Agostino, and people like Mark Bell and his “War on Carbs.” I settled on some things to help me, and so I’ll break down the most important points to hit to ensure you are doing the KETOGENIC DIET right.

Let’s take a look at 3 main “TO-DO’s.”

THE 3 ITEM CHECKLIST TO DO KETO RIGHT

1. HIT YOUR MACRO SPLITS

This is by far most important because if you do not hit your macronutrient ratios — fats, carbs, and protein — then there is no point of the ketogenic diet. You will feel extra crappy, and your workouts will suck because your body doesn’t know what fuel to use — carbs or fats? You will break down muscle, and feel as weak as a mouse. We don’t want that so make sure you hit your splits.

What are your ratio splits?

Simple. Check ’em out below.

  • Fats: 70% or greater
  • Protein: ~20%
  • Carbs: <10%

For those that need a visual here is a STANDARD pie chart for KETO.

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As you can see, you have to get a lot of fats.

Where do you get them from?

The list below will give you an idea.

FAT SOURCES:

  • Butter or ghee
  • Avocados
  • Coconut, avocado, olive, and MCT oils
  • Fattier nuts and seeds (including their butters) like walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, chia and flax seeds, and brazil nuts
  • Fatty fish (preferably cold water and wild caught), like salmon, tuna, halibut, and cod
  • EGGS
  • Cheeses (preferably hormone/antibiotic free) like cream cheese, feta, cheddar, parmesan, and swiss
  • Heavy cream and sour cream (free from added sugars and organic if possible)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Animal fat on meats

Generally speaking that is where your FATS should come from.

To make sure you are hitting your FAT numbers, I recommend tracking your calories for at least 3 consecutive days, if not a week, to ensure that you are consistently hitting your numbers and begin to understand what it feels like to be on a KETOGENIC DIET.

If this is brand new to you, then it is a MUST to keep track of your calories.

(I use my FitBit app to log all my calories, but MyFitnessPal or the Keto Diet App are great too).

If you read my Keto updates (click here for Part I and Part II) you will know that I kept track of my calories for a month straight. I did it everyday to ensure that I was hitting my numbers; both my total calories overall (for me around 2,800 to 3,000/day) and my ratio splits.

This is vital because how can you make sure that you are in a healthy caloric intake for what your goal is — maintaining weight, losing weight, or even gaining weight. Tracking your food and understanding how many calories you consume is essential.

The last thing you want is to be throwing darts in the dark where you don’t know if you are hitting your splits. There is no sure way to know if your body is heading and will remain in KETOSIS if you don’t measure and track it starting out. The whole point is to put your body in KETOSIS. If you are not hitting your numbers everything else is for not.

YOU MUST HIT YOUR SPLITS TO DO KETO RIGHT SO TRACK IT, and BE FULLY COMMITTED TO THE DIET. YOU’RE EITHER ALL IN OR NOT, SO BE ALL IN.

2. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER AND GET YOUR ELECTROLYTES 

Number TWO item to take care of is drinking plenty of water and getting your electrolytes.

THIS IS A MUST FOR THE GYM

Any time you’re on a low carb diet, especially KETO, your body is going to excrete more fluids. When this happens you may become dehydrated, which is not good. As a result, your body will often excrete more essential electrolytes than usual, namely SODIUM, POTASSIUM, AND MAGNESIUM. This is horrible, especially for the GYM, and thus must be addressed.

To make sure you are getting your electrolytes I recommended putting some sort of salt, like Himalayan Sea Salt, in your water throughout the day, and supplementing with sport salts 30 minutes prior to your workout. This will help you perform and feel better through your training, and throughout your day.

I use the following sport tablets below.

Pure Planet Sports Salts 30 Veg Caps

They are vegetable capsules filled with SODIUM, POTASSIUM, AND MAGNESIUM. That’s it. Regardless of what brand you take, make sure it has those 3 electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and magnesium) in it and make sure it is free of any added sugars and carbs.

Making sure you get your electrolytes and water will help you avoid the “KETO FLU.” The “keto flu” is a term used to coin the way you feel when your body is transitioning to KETOSIS. You will often experience “flu-like” symptoms, like a headache, runny noise, excessive fatigue, poor mood, and insomnia.

Taking adequate amounts of your salts and electrolytes will help you significantly minimize these symptoms and make the transition much more smooth. Be sure to take them.

3. EAT ENOUGH VEGETABLES

The third item you need to take care of is that you are getting your vegetables! More specifically your non-starchy vegetables.

In case you don’t know which ones to choose from look at the list below:

  • Kale, spinach, and mixed greens
  • Swiss Chard and Bok choy
  • Lettuces and radicchio
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Kohirabi
  • Celery and cucumbers

Eating more of these vegetables will help you get your MICRONUTRIENTS on the ketogenic diet, and all the necessary FIBER to keep your digestive system flowing properly to ensure a healthy gut. It also helps your transition which avoids the KETO FLU as we discussed in “item 2.”

Feel free to cook them anyway you want, and if you do, cook them in oils like grass-fed butter or coconut oil. This will help keep your fats where you want them, especially if you don’t have the appetite to eat more solid food.

Regardless, make sure to eat your fair share of veggies while doing KETO.

Wrapping Up

Following this simple 3 item checklist will help you ensure that you are doing the KETOGENIC DIET right.

This 10 item list also breaks it down quite well.

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Without hitting your ratios you’re finished before you even start. Make sure to hit your splits. Second, be sure to drink plenty of water and supplement with salt and sport salts to get your vital electrolytes. Finally, making sure to eat tons of veggies will help you get your micronutrients and fiber to ensure your digestive system is working properly.

On top of this, it is already assumed that you are doing other lifestyle habits to ensure you OPTIMIZE KETO. For instance, getting your proper sleep and exercise will enhance KETO’s postive effects, especially WEIGHT-LOSS.

The great part is that your appetite will often be surpressed because your insulin levels are much more consistent throughout the day and you can avoid stuffing yourself with snacks, like potato chips and sweets. This will cut calories in an appropriate way to MAXIMIZE weight-loss and OPTIMIZE muscle retention and/or muscle gain.

Speaking from personal experience, I feel much more leaner than ever, and stronger than ever. I will continue doing KETO moving foward for however long I want, and, perhaps, have certain modifications or “cheat days” where I break it up every now and then.

Hopefully this was resourceful to you in your effort to do KETO right.

If you have any questions please comment below.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

Ketogenic Diet Part II: 30 Days In, Feeling Good, but Losing Gains?

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I’ve done it!

30 days of a continuous ketogenic diet.

How has it been?

It’s been great! In fact, really easy, at least for me.

The results?

Mostly good, and some areas for concern.

During PART I, you will know I gave my first few days experience on the diet. I relayed the astounding positive energy difference I felt, but the drop in gym performance, particularly feeling flat and not as strong as I normally do when I was on a carb-based diet.

This was my biggest concern continuing the diet, and curious of how exactly my strength would hold up, especially since I lost weight transitioning to the diet (about 8 pounds: 188 to ~180).

Well, I’m here to inform you that I’ve lost some gains. Yes, unfortunately, some of my strength has diminished and it’s been frustrating, since I’ve been progressing steadily as the year has progressed (mostly).

(Check out my STRENGTH GAINS series in PART I and PART II).

My number ONE PRIORITY during this past month was to MAINTAIN MY STRENGTH. This was my primary goal and I attempted to follow my programming (I was on 5/3/1 during the past month). I continued everything like normal, even though my diet had changed radically.

What happened?

Struggle! That’s what happened.

Struggle to maintain my strength, and struggle to maintain my endurance training (HIIT and circuit workouts, of course). I struggled to “turn it on” when the time came to lift the weight, and felt I had to exert so much more energy than usual to complete the lift and given set(s).

BUT, you know what?

I did complete the sets and reps I needed to at my required weights and intensities. Only thing, however, it didn’t always look pretty. My form often broke down more than usual because I felt fatigued at some points, but, as I mentioned, just couldn’t “TURN IT ON” like I used to. I’m referring to that slight controlled adrenaline rush you get when you lift that provides you that extra edge to complete the set (those who lift know what I’m talking about). This was at least what occurred for the first 2 and half weeks or so.

During the 3rd and 4th weeks I started to feel more of a “PUMP” and strong again. However, this return to optimal performance occurred in spurts, from one training session to another. One session I would feel great and have little time where I felt “weak.” Others times, though, I felt mediocre in my abilities.

What was the difference?

My best guess is time of day.

I felt better during my morning training sessions rather than my afternoon training sessions, despite fasting. From a previous article you will know I follow intermittent fasting as a pattern of eating, and have had great success over the past 4 years practicing it. You might think that I would feel worse, but NO. I felt and often feel better.

WHY???

I’m not completely sure, but maybe it’s my routine and my body is better prepared for the work (my guess, at least).

I did all the same things for my afternoon workouts as my morning workouts. I took my electrolyte supplements (I use this one), my pre-workout, and my enthusiasm (or lack there of, lol).

I’m not sure what it was, but it was a noticeable difference.

(NOTE: afternoon workouts have always been my least favorite. I prefer mornings and evenings if possible).

The good news is that it has gotten better as I continue on the KETO diet.

All the positive effects…

  • Significant increase in consistent energy throughout the day (no afternoon crash)
  • Better mood day-to-day (much more positive)
  • Enhanced mental performance and function (more creative and productive)
  • Clearer skin (brighter complexion)
  • Better body composition (less fat)
  • I can handle stress better (may be due to better mood, mental performance, etc.)

is just too much for me to call it “QUITS” for the KETO DIET right now. I want to keep going and will figure out the strength part of the equation as I continue.

Where there’s a will there’s a way and I’ll get to my strength goals.

HENCE, I WILL CONTINUE KETO.

As always, thanks for reading and stopping by. Comment down below with your questions, and be sure to stay tuned as I continue my KETO series and update my strength programming.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

(Photo Credit)

“Is a Calorie a Calorie?” Part II: Making Dietary Adjustments

 

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Thanks for tuning in for PART II of my series on “Is a Calorie a Calorie?” If you missed PART I click HERE to read it.

Knowing PART I, you will know that a main factor preventing many people from weight-loss is abnormal insulin levels — either too high or a yo-yo effect disrupting normal function of the body’s biochemistry.

As a result, what can be done to rectify these energy system malfunctions?

Several things, most of which can be done NOW and it all starts with DIET.

Diet is the First Change for a Reason

The diet is the first thing that must be audited and changed because it is the primary reason why a perons’ biochemistry — particularly their energy systems — is not operating like it should.

(If you don’t know what I’m talking about refer to PART I).

For instance, someone may be consuming apple or orange fruit juice because it has vitamins, which is supposed to make it “healthy” leading to the belief that it is healthy. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Just because something has “vitamins or minerals” does not mean it is “HEALTHY.” Often times, juices have as much, or even more, calories than soda, and the calories are almost entirely SUGAR. I do not care if is packaged as “organic, non-GMO, no added-sugar, and cold pressed.” Sugar is sugar and it will do what sugar does: cause problems.

It (SUGAR disguised as juice in this scenario) causes problems because too many consume it in EXCESS. The American Heart Association, for instance, says no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories) of ADDED-SUGAR for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men per day. You drink one glass of juice and you’re past it.

NOT GOOD.

Again, sugar causes problems because it is in almost everything you buy at the store, especially in the typical American diet of processed foods. This is why I have DIET — the foods habitually consumed daily — as the FIRST place to start in the effort to lose excess body-weight (fat) because it has the highest impact on your weight.

The way to improve the diet is to alter the diet through changing one’s perspective on food.

Please read on…

Making DIETARY Adjustments: A Diet Philosophy

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As a trainer at a commercial gym, I’ve got to experience many different walks of people. From teenagers to the senior citizens and everyone in-between.

Out of the 80+ people I’ve got to work with so far, 90% of them want to lose weight. Out of that 90%, 75% of them need to lose a significant amount of weight, which, in my opinion, I consider more than 20 pounds.

Based on these numbers, I’ve deduced that most of these wonderful people have been mislead in believing the old dogma of “eating less and exercising more equals weight-loss.”

In many instances, this is completely true! This is the story for many people, including some of the people I’ve trained, and myself making this simple adjustment.

BUT, out of that 75% I said had to lose 20 or more pounds, I’d say about 80% of those people practice “EAT LESS AND MOVE MORE” already. After 4 to 8 weeks they don’t lose a pound, OR…they lose maybe 10, even 20, and the weight-loss hits a wall. It just stops.

No matter how much they, and many others, restrict calories or workout, nothing is really getting better. For some reason the body does not want to lose weight, specifically BURN FAT, even though they have so much available. This problem must be solved and it has 100% to do with what foods they are (or not) eating.

At this point they may become discouraged, and that is when I step in and say there may be more to the story than meets the eye by introducing the underlying issues of their metabolism and energy systems not working properly.

What I suggest is that they re-haul their diet by adopting an alternative diet philosophy, such as a ketogenic, paleo, or slow-carb diet.

The reason?

Because these type of diets will aid in controlling insulin levels, which is the primary reason why fat cannot be used and lost.

Also, these diets teach people to eat cleaner, less adulterated, processed food that provide the body with increased nutrition. This means eating better quality macros (protein, fats, carbs) without an abundance of food pollution — pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, steroids, etc. — as well as getting increased fiber, probiotics, and increased vitamins and mineral quantities.

Odds are once they make the switch weight-loss will follow.

Follow Rule #1 with Your Diet

Once a diet philosophy is ADOPTED, remember RULE #1…

FOLLOW THE DIET EXACTLY AS INTENDED.

This means the diet philosophy picked must be followed exactly as outlined. There is no cutting corners. Remember, the diet is constructed and put together in a particular way for a reason. Making “adjustments” (a.k.a cheating) is not allowed. Sure. Have a cheat meal here and there and it won’t kill you. It’s probably going to happen at one point or another, especially early on. I’m not talking about that, and, from time to time, I encourage it. Enjoy any type of “good tasting food” once in awhile and live life fully. That said, however, what I am talking about is any adjustment that you make that occurs day after day negating the full benefits of the diet.

For example, if on a KETOGENIC diet many can get away with eating some fruit, especially berries, from time to time, particularly before a workout. The reason is because berries are lower in sugar, higher in fiber, and any sugar (carbs) you intake will be burned quickly during your workout. It won’t “stay around.” HOWEVER, if you consume some type of fruit everyday, regardless of an activity or not, it is going to be hard for your body to stay and get back into ketosis. That is the whole point of the diet — to be in ketosis to burn fat for energy. CARBS, any direct source like fruit, disrupt this. Thus, the diet must be followed EXACTLY how it is intended.

NO EXCUSES.

Hence, RULE #1.

Remember this for Rule #1 to be Successful

In order to satisfy RULE #1 you must have a certain attitude.

What is it?

UNDERSTANDING THAT A DIET PHILOSOPHY IS A TYPE OF PERSPECTIVE ON FOOD.

To expand on this, it means that the “diet being followed” (keto, paleo, vegan, IIFYM, etc.) is a PERSPECTIVE on HOW TO EAT FOR A PURPOSE and not HOW LONG or necessarily WHAT TO EAT.

This is because people far too often look at the word “DIET” as a VERB.

No, no, no, no, no!!!

DIET needs to be understood as a NOUN. As a noun, diet refers to the foods you habitually (consistently) eat on a daily basis.

THIS IS WHAT A DIET IS.

Understand that when a certain diet philosophy is practiced, like paleo, vegan, vegetarian, ketogenic, if it fits your macros (IIFYM), etc., that is a person’s perspective on food and what he or she thinks is best for him or her to be in their best health and/or achieve their goals (at least, at that moment).

As a result, this diet philosophy is practiced consistently over extended periods of time until the person adopts a different diet philosophy and changes their attitude and perspective on food for different goals (i.e. to lose weight or fat, or gain muscle). It’s all normal.

This is why the change to eat healthier, or losing weight, must have a long-term mindset, or VISION, because it is what will lead to positive changes to last (weight-loss, increased muscle mass, better endurance and energy, lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, etc.).

For some growing up, for example, eating sugary cereal for breakfast is normal, even considered healthy! But, maybe that person changes their perspective on food and diet and decides to have a salad for breakfast. CRAZY! (That was me!)

This is because certain things considered normal are only normal because of culture and the way of one’s upbringing surrounding food. This culture and upbringing is usually narrow-minded and only instantly satisfying (the food tastes good and it’s easy).

That is why for any change to happen a change on the perspective and attitude surrounding food must be met.

Conclusion

I must say that I love food, and it’s a ritual that I enjoy and look forward to daily. Whether I’m on what some call a “strict” diet or not, I love the food that I’m eating and feel even better knowing that my food is working for me and not against me (at least most times, haha).

This is why auditing the diet and making proper DIETARY (and MENTAL) adjustments is the first place to start.

I encourage you to modify your diet through changing (either opening and/or expanding) your attitude and perspective on food and what a good, wholesome, and nutritious diet can do for you. A good place to start is cutting out the junk (no McDonald’s cheeseburgers, Krispy Kreme donuts, Starbuck’s frappucinos, Doritos, etc.), and replacing it with foods in their most basic form, as a single ingredient (what you find on the perimeter of a grocery store). Making this simple adjustment is something you do right now. This will help you develop and/or improve habits and rituals that surround eating food. Adopting a diet philosophy will help in this regard and that is why I highly recommend it.

From these adjustments your attitude toward food changes and you begin to think of DIET in the noun sense. This leads to real results that last, potentially, your whole life. This is why DIET is the first thing to address in losing weight, and not exercise or anything else.

This is especially true if you have tried “everything” and can’t lose the weight. It’s likely because there is more to the story like abnormal insulin levels (for whatever reason). Sticking to the old “cut calories and exercise more” mindset becomes ineffective. Good luck with following that…

So…be open and try a diet philosophy that you connect with and give it solid time. I’d say a month at the very least.

Need help? PRACTICE THESE STEPS:

  1. Audit and review your diet (record every last thing that you eat or drink, including your eating habits).
  2. Understand where you calories come from by knowing your macro profile (what makes up your protein, fats, and carbs and what foods they come from).
  3. Make proper adjustments (cutting the sugar, increasing fiber, drinking more water, just eating more wholesome foods, etc.).
  4. Implement those adjustments immediately and combine it with a diet philosophy (a way of eating explained earlier) that you think can most help you NOW.

Do that and you’ll have success (weight-loss, better health markers, etc.) in some way.

Stay tuned for PART III as I explore other factors that affect your weight-loss and performance in and out of the gym.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

(Photo Credit 1)

(Photo Credit 2)

“Is a Calorie a Calorie?” Part I: Sugar, Simple Carbs, and Insulin

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Is a calorie a calorie?

Ask any health or fitness professional and the answer is usually a resounding “YES.”

That’s because of the first Law of Thermodynamics (conservation of energy) is stated as a concrete fact as it pertains to the human body’s use of calories from food for energy, and it’s as simple as CALORIES IN EQUALS CALORIES OUT.

In case you’re unfamiliar to the Law of Conservation of Energy, it states that “energy cannot be created nor destroyed just transformed or transferred in some way, in a closed system.”

As an equation, it can be stated as: U = Q – W.

“U” is the internal energy of the system (or body-weight), “Q” is the heat supplied by the system (the calories eaten in a day) and “W” is the work done by the system (the calories burned by your body for any given action or metabolic processes in a day).

In other words, a calorie is a calorie in our system (our bodies) and will always equal the same no matter what. For instance, if your diet consisted of 1500 calories from all simple carbs and sugar sources, like bread, potato chips, cookies, candies, etc., it would EQUAL THE SAME CALORIES AND CAUSE THE SAME EFFECT from a balanced diet of meats, veggies, good fats, and slow digesting carbs.

Using the first Law of Thermodynamics this statement is true. It doesn’t matter what food you eat as long as you’re eating the right amount of calories to either gain, lose, or maintain your body weight for a given energy expenditure. In other words, the classic saying “Calories in equals calories out” remains true based on the first Law of Thermodynamics.

Weight-gain is, essentially, the result of poor behaviors and ultimately down to “personal choice.”

On the surface, this makes complete sense, but recently there has been new evidence challenging this statement.

For instance…

What if the first Law of Thermodynamics did not fit our diet completely? What if our biological chemistry firstly dictates how the calories we consume interact with our bodies based on our current physiology, resulting in different ways certain macronutrients are processed, or expressed, in our body system?

This, I think, is a question that should be further investigated because, as a population, more people are overweight now, yet we’ve heard for years that it’s as simple as cutting your calories and exercising more.

Don’t you think if it was that easy that more of us would be in shape?

Just food for thought (pun intended).

And do not get me wrong…

I understand that this calorie balance is the first step in any weight-loss endeavor. The majority of Americans sit for longer periods of time more than ever today, and have access to an abundance of food at their fingertips. Put that together and it’s no mystery that we’re so fat.

BUT, IS THAT IT?

Is there nothing more going on in this story of obesity and being overweight?

I can’t say for sure that there is or not, but given the circumstances, I think there must be more to the story then just to say, “people are lazy, cheetoh hungry slobs that just don’t care.”

I believe that may be true to a degree, BUT I think the majority of people who are overweight DO CARE about  losing weight and TRY, but do not get very far because the story of calories in equals calories out is incomplete.

Many lose some weight in the beginning with more exercise and calorie reduction in their diet, but soon after that progress stops and they are left discouraged after weeks of no progress. No matter what they try they just cannot seem to lose the weight.

Working with clients myself as a trainer, I’ve come to understand that people are complicated, and saying they should stick to the current dogma is losing credibility and traction because, quite frankly, it’s not really working anymore in TODAY’S DIET. It is failing and, hence, must be investigated.

Keeping it as simple as CALORIES IN = CALORIES OUT seems to not tell the full story in my book.

Let’s dig deeper.

How are (Simple) Carbs Used by the Body

To first understand the energy equation we must first understand how energy (Calories from food) is used and processed by the body.

To make things simple, watch the video below.

I think the video above does a great job at explaining how sugar metabolism takes place in the body and what exactly is going on. Since sugar is so abundant in our food supply today, it makes it extremely difficult to limit your intake of it, allowing excess sugar consumption to be the norm. Foods you think would not have sugar, like meat, crackers, and chips, have them. That’s why I’m always an advocate of checking the food label and making sure, first-hand, there is no question about it.

But, aren’t we told that we need carbohydrates for energy? That’s what the food pyramid tells us, right?

That is true, yes, but the food pyramid is outdated and has barely changed with the times.

The food pyramid tells us that the base — the majority of our calories — should be from carbs, including pastas, grains, and flours. If you want to become a bodybuilder or an offensive lineman then sure, that might be a good option for you. You can do that. BUT, since most of us don’t need to be 250 to 300 pounds for a job that’s probably not the best option to go with.

What we need is more balance in our diet from whole-food sources.

I’m not saying going ketogenic and cutting carbs altogether. No. But, just making simple changes by consuming more complex carbs (increasing fiber) and less simple ones (devoid of fiber) is a good start to balance blood sugar (insulin). Throw in good protein and fat sources, like quality chicken, fish, avocados, meat, and nuts, and you have a much better combination to lose weight and be healthier, with daily exercise activity added in.

If not, then the chance of flooding your body with simple carbs is high (the highly processed “American Diet”). This causes a tidal wave of INSULIN as a response, contributing to METABOLIC SYNDROME (insulin resistance) over-time, and, eventually, Type II Diabetes and other health defects.

Metabolic Syndrome and Weight

METABOLIC SYNDROME is a name given to refer to abnormal functions of your biochemistry that dictate bodily functions and processes. By definition, if you have three or more of the following criteria, you have metabolic syndrome:

  • Abdominal obesity (Waist circumference of greater than 40 inches in men, and greater than 35 inches in women)
  • Triglyceride level of 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) or greater
  • HDL cholesterol of less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women
  • Systolic blood pressure (top number) of 130 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or greater, or diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of 85 mm Hg or greater
  • Fasting glucose of 100 mg/dL or greater

(Source: American Heart Association)

Metabolic syndrome is so BAD because it puts you at a much higher risk of developing chronic diseases, like heart disease, Type II diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, stroke, heart attack, and so forth. All of these share one things in commoninsulin resistance or abnormally high blood sugar levels. One of the main contributors to this is the abundance of SUGAR and SIMPLE CARBS in the diet. These two become such a HUGE problem because many often consume them in excess, leading to metabolic syndrome to manifest itself (weight-gain, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, and high blood sugar turning into insulin resistance).

It’s because our body cannot process simple carbs and sugars in abundance, like how we eat them. It’s just doesn’t work. The body does it’s best and stores it as fat because it has nowhere else to put the remaining glucose it breaks down from the many simple carbs that are ingested.

This causes lots of visceral fat (fat around your organs) leading to dangerous health effects deteriorating our health.

If you have read doctor Robert Lustig’s book, Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Chronic Disease, then you will also be familiar that obesity (what simple sugars invariably cause over-time if not kept in check) is a symptom of metabolic syndrome from a hormonal imbalance, or malfunction, in which leptin (the hormone that tells us we’re full) does not reach the hypothalamus (the command center of our appetite and how our digestive system functions) due to excess insulin being released by the body to handle the simple carbs and sugars. This causes our bodies to go in “STARVATION” mode causing much of the food we consume put towards FAT.

This explains those individuals who severely restrict their calories and exercise more do not get much anywhere because our hormones and body-chemistry will not let us use our “fat stores” for energy. If they have any success it is typically short lived, and they often gain the weight back with any change in calories and reduction in exercise once they do.

Thus, you must stop and reverse any high blood sugar (insulin) levels FIRST and then you can tackle weight-loss.

High and consistent insulin levels means you can’t burn FAT!

STOP HIGH INSULIN.

Making the Change to Reduce Insulin

Reducing insulin levels and making sure they remain more consistent is hard, but doable.

Yes, I understand that your habits and lifestyle play a part in that, because a diet is temporary and habits, and/or a lifestyle, are potentially life long. I’m an advocate of this, and agree 100% that you need a healthy lifestyle (like a well-balanced diet and much exercise/physical activity performed daily). That said, however, it is not the one-all be-all solution to how simple carbs, and food in general, affect us.

There are so many different moving parts to what’s going on that simplifying weight-gain to The First Law is a discredit to everyone who is over-weight. Essentially, you’re saying they want to be fat and overweight and they are just soft. Maybe to a degree, but often times they just don’t know what to do.

Believe it or not they are the majority now, or at least will be very soon, and I doubt that was their goal — TO BE FAT.

NO WAY.

No one wants to have a higher chance of dying sooner, and developing chronic illnesses and disease that deteriorate their quality of life on a day-to-day basis where they can’t function, while straining their personal life and pocket at the same time. This causes a harsh decline in self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-efficacy, which make their life miserable

I was there myself and lost the 100 pounds and I’ve kept it off for 6 years now. I’m the extreme minority when it comes to weight-loss, so I know what the HELL I’M TALKING ABOUT.

What helped me was a curiosity to figure this weight-loss process. To feel better day-to-day and not have nagging minor ailments (acne, brain fog, lethargy, poor self confidence, to name a few), added up together, to make me miserable. And that is what I was — miserable.

I refused to be fat and that is what opened my eyes to seeking alternative solutions to the weight-loss problem. Eating better and exercising more helped me right away — absolutely. I have not said and will never say it does not. What I am saying is that to lose “all the weight you want” you have to think of diet as just “NOT A DIET.” It is a different way of thinking and living that you have to accept.

Essentially, changing your biochemistry for the better through particular environmental changes.

That is what has helped me.

This is what will help PEOPLE solve THEIR insulin equation, which will help those that seem to can’t lose any fat or weight to lose it and keep it off. Ultimately, that is what really counts — keeping the weight off.

Stay tuned for Part II where I will discuss methods, procedures, and plans to change your physical and physiological environment for the better to lose the weight.

As always, thanks for stopping by and subscribe if not already.

Please leave your comments down below because this is such an important topic.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

(Photo Credit)

I’ve Gone Ketoenic! Part I: Days 1-3

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I’ve gone Ketogenic!

Yes, the high fat diet to ironically burn fat!

Or, at least, as Keto supporters claim.

Over the past few weeks I have slowly been transitioning. First, at tightening my fasting and eating windows (16 hours fasting and an 8 hour eating window), while simultaneously slowly decreasing my daily carbohydrate intake. Finally, this past Thursday (August 10, 2017), I made the switch to a full Ketogenic diet and I am now on the fourth day (August 13, 2017).

For a lot of people, a ketogenic diet means different specific macronutrient splits. For me, I consider Keto the following macro splits of your total daily caloric intake:

  • Fats = 70-75%
  • Protein = 20-25%
  • Carbs = 5-10%

Sure, some claim to eat as much as 80% plus of fats with 15% protein, and <5% carbs. Regardless, Keto is high fat, and ultra low carb (30 to 50 grams a day, sometimes up to a 100, depending on the person).

Over the past weeks, I have done tons of research, including: listening to podcasts with Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, scouring the web with contrasting sources on what’s generally good and bad, what is allowed and what is not, how to best workout on a keto diet, and tips to avoid the “Keto Flu”. I have done this in an effort to experience a new way of dieting, lose excess body-fat — I’M STARTING THIS AT 183.5LBS AT ~13.5% BF — while serving as a guinea pig for my clients and anybody else who seeks weight and fat-loss.

So far, so good.

I’ll sum up my first 3 days below.

Keto Day 1

My first day of Keto actually felt great!

My first and last meal of the day were the same and I had the first one around 11:30 A.M. after a ~15 hour fast. Below is the breakdown:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 turkey sausage
  • A few cups of sauteed onions, peppers, and mushrooms, cooked in Kerrygold grass-fed butter
  • A large handful of mixed greens with some organic white cheddar cheese and no sugar balsamic vinaigrette
  • A dollop of chipotle mayonnaise.

Below is the macro summary using my FitBit app.

As you can see, quite a bit of calories.

After my meal, I did some work and then headed to the gym to get my workout in. My first workout on keto did not feel too bad. I actually felt pretty good! Luckily, it was my de-load week, which suits the diet transition, since it’ll take some time to adapt to it.

Of course, I’m sure I was going through my glycogen stores, since my type of workouts (powerlifting and HIIT). Either way, felt good, especially after.

What was striking to me was the mental clarity after my workout. It was something that I haven’t experienced in a long time. There was no mental fog that I often experience, and my mood and mental focus were greatly enhanced. I almost got high on the feeling, in fact.

This is something that has been consistent starting out — my energy levels.

At this point, I’m excited, but trying not to go overboard (as you will see).

Below are my total macros for Keto Day 1:

Day 2 of Keto

Day 2 was much different than my first day on keto.

First off, my sleep wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. I had to wake up a couple times to pee, and that decreased the quality of sleep because I had trouble falling back asleep (I rarely wake up sleeping).

I woke up (around 6:00 A.M.), had a client in the morning, and then had my training after (around 8:30 A.M.). Going into my workout I made sure to take my SODIUM, MAGNESIUM, AND POTASSIUM electrolyte supplement beforehand, and decided to have my pre-workout (0 carbs, 0 sugar) and BCAA supplement (0 carbs, 0 sugar).

Yes, I know that there are many debating thoughts regarding whether or not BCAAs can kick you out of ketosis, in addition to some artificial sweeteners (like ace-K, and sucralose). I didn’t get a full consensus that it would kick you out (the fear it might raise insulin levels), so I decided to take it anyway. What the hell, right!?

I felt okay, especially considering I didn’t get the greatest sleep, and felt confident to lift heavy that day, despite it being my de-load week. I did squats and went all the way up to 385, my current max. I didn’t get it, needed a spot, but I consider that mainly psychological since I kind of psyched myself out.

That was most of my workout, in addition to a rehab shoulder routine I did for my right shoulder complex (dealing with some AC joint trouble).

After, I had a similar meal the day before, but with turkey meat and eggs (2 of my meals).

For my final meal I had broccoli and cauliflower grilled in a pan with salt and butter.

Below are my final macros for the day:

That wraps up day 2.

 

Keto Day 3

Day 3 of Keto was up and down.

First, a little down (possibly some “Keto Flu” symptoms), and then better as the day went on, with more consistent energy levels.

I did not workout this day, so I did not eat as many macros as I did the past 2 days.

Below are my ending macro splits (I ate the same meals from day 1, but I added a different type of sausage and some avocado).

3 Day Summary

My first 3 days on Keto were solid, in opinion.

Nothing extraordinary yet, but I’m not feeling terrible, like I’ve read and heard many people say. Today is day four and it’s going okay. Could have been better because I did not eat right after my morning workout (fasted), but okay nonetheless.

My muscles feel “deflated”, but things are tightening at the same time, especially the waist. I like this feeling, but the most important thing for me is to keep my powerlifting and overall fitness performance high. I love HIIT and powerlifting and, as far as what I’ve studied, it’s hard to perform these activities while on a keto diet (because your body prefers glucose). This is MOST important because I want to optimize my performance and keep/add my strength. Hard I know, but I’ll be pushing it at the same time and trying to maximize my recovery potential.

We will see, but I’m just taking this day-by-day and experimenting like everyone who first starts to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

If you have any questions or have some advice please let me know in the comments below!!!

Stay tuned for my next post as I finish my first week.

Until next time, be strong and be you!

(Photo Credit)

Thoughts on Gains: Vertical Dieting

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If you’re into lifting and don’t know who Stan Efferding is then shame on you!

(Click HERE to learn more about the White Rhino and visit his YouTube page HERE).

If you do then I’m sure you have heard him talk about his diet routine when he was competing in powerlifting and bodybuilding, especially when training with Flex Wheeler.

Listen to him enough, and you might hear him say something called “VERTICAL DIET.”

When I heard Stan say and describe this diet philosophy I got excited. The reason is  because that is exactly how I structure my own diet!

I was shocked, and excited to know that I follow the same diet philosophy as Stan. This made me say “I must be doing something right.”

Jokes aside, once Stan started to break down and share some thoughts on vertical dieting it all clicked for me. I realized that I was doing something that was maximizing the hard work I put in to the gym. This made me happy and excited to share the idea with everyone listening.

If you listen to the latest Juggernaut Training Systems (JTS) podcast with Stan (click HERE to watch on YouTube) he goes over this in more detail. He shares this was the diet he was on when he broke his records in powerlifting that helped him achieve a 2,303 total in his 40’s. Crazy.

Regardless, Stan is planning on releasing an eBook on vertical dieting in the future, but, in the meantime, I’ll break it down for you here in my own words, with my thoughts on the diet.

What is Vertical Dieting?

Vertical dieting is having a narrow selection of foods for carbs, fats, and protein that aim to maximize the nutrient density of what you are eating .

For instance, instead of having a wide spectrum of different foods on a daily and weekly basis, instead, you would have a small group of foods with a high nutrient density that constitute each macronutrient (protein, carbs, and fats).

For carbs, you may have rice, sweet potatoes, and oats. Protein, might be chicken, eggs, and steak. Fats might be avocado, coconut oil, and almonds. Throw in a select group of vegetables and fruits and you are set.

The purpose of a vertical diet is to BUILD EFFICIENCY.

Eating a narrow range of foods for each macronutrient allows this to happen because you train your body’s digestive system to be efficient at breaking down those foods, and getting the maximum nutrient absorption from it. This, in theory, causes less stress on your digestive system because it is not dealing with a diverse range of foods to digest, which may decrease the likelihood of inflammation in the gut.

This, over time, leads to less time the food is in your digestive system overall, which promotes greater meal frequency, less bloating in the gut, and enhances the chances you can use the actual nutrients from the foods you eat to their fullest potential when eaten.

Again, efficiency that leads to greater results from the nutrients consumed.

Concerns With Vertical Dieting

The largest concern with vertical dieting is whether or not you are getting the adequate micronutrients that your body needs, like vitamins and minerals.

Short answer is that you are.

This is my opinion, at least.

Vertical dieting may seem counter intuitive to one of the most popular notions in dieting — “eating a wide and diverse range of food to cover all the nutrients that your body needs” — but the vertical diet philosophy satisfies this. It’s because it is all about building efficiency at breaking down the foods you consume and the nutrients they hold. If you eat dense foods on this diet, which is recommended, then you should have no problem.

For example, if you pick carb sources that lack nutrient density, such as white bread and pasta, then you may have a problem with certain B-vitamins and fiber. However, if you pick brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats, and/or maybe quinoa as your primary sources of carbs then you are eating nutrient rich foods that provide you with plenty of micronutrients and fiber that your body demands. As a result, eating a select 2 or 3 dense sources of carbs, or any macronutrient, will give you a high return on your investment (ROI) for the food you eat.

This aids in the recovery process after hard workouts, so your muscles and surrounding tissues get the nutrients they need to repair and grow back stronger, faster, resulting in muscle hypertrophy and strength gains.

Another concern with vertical dieting is that it gets boring, and thus, not sustainable long-term.

This may be true to an extent, but if your goal is truly to maximize your muscle and strength gains then it is something that you will just have to get over.

Also, you can mix and match your food, add spices, and cook your food in different ways that make it more appetizing.

Finally, I believe the 80/20 rule applies to the vertical diet, like many other diets. For example, if 80% of the foods you eat are the foods within your vertical diet, then you can leave the last 20% to eat different types of food. This does not mean you binge on McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme over the weekend, but it means you might have something different than what’s on the menu most days.

This way you are still getting much of the benefits of vertical dieting, yet adding some flavor to your diet and breaking up some of the monotony.

Conclusion

Like with any diet, vertical dieting aims at giving you results. For this diet, in particular, it will help you have less decision fatigue of foods to eat. This makes preparing your food easier, which lessens the probability of eating out or choosing poor quality foods.

The vertical diet will also allow you to improve your digestive system’s efficiency at breaking down food, making it easier, over time, to absorb the nutrients found in the foods that you are eating in this diet philosophy. This will aid you in your recovery efforts after hard workouts by having greater ability to assimilate the nutrients found in the foods that you are eating. Thus, improving the likelihood for more gains.

Through this and improvements in increasing your ability to meet your meal frequency goals, along with decreasing your chances for bloating and inflammation in the gut, makes it worth trying.

If you doubt this philosophy I encourage you to give it a try because it easily fits any style of diet, such as paleo, keto, slow-carb, vegan, 33/33/33, etc. It is because the vertical diet allows you to pick and choose the best foods for you in each diet type giving you the ability to satisfy those requirements. This makes it sustainable for you while receiving the benefits of a vertical diet, as opposed to a horizontal one that allows you to eat anything in sight.

Leave me a comment down below and tell me what you think about this, and what it means for your diet.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

(Photo Credit)